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February 8, 2011


Why are we still talking about SharePoint governance?

by Anders B. Skjønaa (

I just read a great article about the relationship between corporate governance, it governance and at the end of the day; SharePoint governance. Your can read it yourself at Eduard’s blog.

This article introduces one of the major challenges we have with creating a well working governance practice for SharePoint;

Why are we constantly talking about SharePoint governance at all? It’s just another system in our heterogeneous it environment!

Yes – it is. But the thing is that SharePoint – as a platform – provides a set of services that enables the business to do certain things. The same is true for the phone system and the email system. But with SharePoint you may very well end up enabling the business in ways that you have never thought of. The value-proposition of SharePoint is exactly about enablement. You enable people to collaborate, to store information and documents in new ways, to share data with users that may not be under your absolute control… And many more things…

What this means, is that you – as a service provider of SharePoint services – end up in a hard dilemma.

You can choose to either to:

  1. lock down your services to provide a controllable and well defined service
  2. accept that the foundation of your services must be able to scale – in several dimensions – to keep up with ever changing business requirements and requests

Well – the first one seems to be the obvious choice for it operations. But this is also the choice that locks down the vast amount of opportunities SharePoint can – and will  – provide to the business. So the second strategy will give you a much better value proposition –  if managed.

Not a lot of the other IT systems will require you to make that choice. This is why we need to keep a focusing on SharePoint governance – moving forward. Enabling the business to take full advantage of the functionality in the SharePoint platform, will – without a doubt – take you to places where you did’nt expect.

An example; a client of mine are using a structured guideline to manage images for use in their intranet. SharePoint image libraries are excellent for that and provide functionality out of the box that have never been available for the corporate communication department. So – for the communication people it makes a lot of sense to use the same functionality for images for print and advertising as well. All this can now be tracked in relation to campaigns, printed materials, markets etc. Great! But – not so great… Luckily we had a policy in place for managing images in this particular application, and when the relevant controls ran, we could identify that the system was no longer compliant with the policy and we could address the issue. The risk here is naturally, that the storage design was not planned for the hundreds of gigabyte of high resolution images and the system would potentially break or performance would degrade.

This example shows, how business people like to solve relevant challenges with whatever tool they have at hand. And SharePoint enables them to do exactly that! The risk is, that operations dont have a chance to foresee these solutions and therefore there is a special need for specific governance rules and controls.

I am using a framework designed especially for SharePoint governance, built on some of the principles of COBIT. Using a governance framework (this on is called SharePoint Governance Framework – to make it simple) is a way to build structure and proces around managing something that you dont really know what is (referring to the example above). No framework – no even the one I am using 😉 – is guarantied to catch every single challenge or risk. You have to do the work yourself and keep focusing on driving it. Remember; SharePoint Governance is a practice – not a document.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. markmorrell
    Feb 8 2011

    Great blog post which shows the opportunities and risks of using SharePoint 2010. The product can be a great success or dreadful disaster not because of the technology but how an organisation choose to use it.

    I’ve been implementing SP2010 in my organisation and believe you need to get your strategy, governance, standards and guidance right so you can exploit the benefits and minimise or even avoid any drawbacks.

    I’m keen to find out more by posting about my experiences here to keep talking about SP2010 governance.


  2. Feb 8 2011

    Great Post!

    I’ve elaborated on my blog in response to this.

  3. sandyblair
    Feb 8 2011

    For most IT system there is inherent governance, it’s baked in by the system developers and administaors, the data is structured and a great deal of effort is spent making sure it is valid and well maintained. A fulfilment system for instance makes sure that only particular things can be ordered by particular people and that any workflow (approval, delivery, etc) is robust and visible to the people who need it.

    Sharepoint contains ‘data’ that is very difficult to apply that process to, compounded with the problem that Sharepoint itself provides a poor toolkit for doing so means that we are still talking about it because it’s a problem that needs solving.

    Other content management system at least have some governence facilities, and it is telling that for Sharepoint there is an emerging third party market from the likes of axceler or Compliance Sherrif to fill that gap.

    Out of the box, the syste isn’t making it easy for tying together together in a large organisation all the aspects of governance: Template management, master page management, link checkers, accessibility checkers, information retention processes, ownership management and, well thats just some of the obvious elements… It regards ‘administration’ as IT administrators, and the toolkit there looks better, but for ‘intranet managers’ the toolkit is weak and the task is difficult.

    Indeed, I don’t even see that microsoft have recognised the problem.

    • Feb 8 2011

      Sandy, I have to disagree on your points regarding out of the box features.

      SharePoint 2010 offers Template management, master page management, , accessibility checkers, information retention processes and ownership management. You just have to know how to use them and activate them. Like I say in my blog, as often No training is provided, most people do not know they are there.

      It is only link checkers that I cant think of (off the top of my head) that a business user could not use (but you can find this on Codeplex and also a form of this using SharePoint designer).

      I agree that Microsoft could do a lot more to drive user adoption. Even an online tool would help this.

      Lee Stevens
      SharePoint Business Analyst
      SharePoint 2010 MCTS

      • sandyblair
        Feb 9 2011

        Lee, I was careful to say that these features are sometimes poor and not tied together well, rather than non-existant.

        As with anything on sharepoint, it’s possible to do most tasks, it’s just not easy or ‘joined up’, often it is in an area of the administration which should only be accessed by specific IT folks.

        For instance I was unaware there was a decent inbuilt accessibility checker for published content, and I’m not able to find anything about this by google – which is why I mentioned compliance sherrif.

    • Feb 8 2011

      I actually think that Microsoft is aware of the challenges people are having. This is – at least – the impression I get when speaking to account teams. There is a huge dilemma for these guys, in terms of sales…

      There are some papers available from Microsoft that gives some advice on the subject. The problem is, that is does not include important governance concepts like risk, business drivers, etc…

      You can find an example here:


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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